Text Patterns - by Alan Jacobs

Monday, July 6, 2009

free as in threatening

Very likely most of you who are interested have already seen this stuff, but Chris Anderson’s new book Free: the Future of a Radical Price, has been getting some thoughtful attention, most notably from Malcolm Gladwell — but this review from Drake Bennett at the Boston Globe is interesting too.

My short take on all this — I’m not sure whether I’ll find time to produce a longer one — is that Anderson’s critics seem to win on points, but then, I haven't read the book yet. I probably will, though, since it’s going to be, um, free. For a while anyway.

But just one comment for now: Anderson’s response to Gladwell is titled “Dear Malcolm: Why so threatened?” and, you know, I hate that line. It’s one of the more common and more annoying forms of what C. S. Lewis called Bulverism. “You don't like my book, but since my book is obviously excellent” — see Alain de Botton — “you must be lying or malicious or suffering from some psychological shortcoming. Let’s see — I’d rather not think you are lying or malicious, so let me assume . . . yes! — let me assume that you are threatened by my unassailable arguments. It is weakness on your part, not malice, that makes you say these obviously false things.”


  • Michael Straight said...

    If only Lewis had thought of a better name for that fallacy than Bulverism (maybe something Latin like ad hominem - and yes, Bulverism is a form of ad hominem, but it's a specific, less recognized, more insidious variation), we might have made more progress in stamping it out by now (or at least a more effective way of shaming people who commit it).

  • You might already be aware of this, but it's worth mentioning the plagiarism accusations that Anderson is facing. I keep getting an error when cutting and pasting the URL, but Googling "chris anderson free plagiarism" will bring up the Virgina Quarterly Review blog's thorough account.

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